IT channel takeaway: Businesses considering a move to open source systems will have a strong demand for open source support and services that providers should tap into.
With Raven Zachary, senior analyst and open source practice head with The 451 Group.
Question: Why is support so important to how an open source stack provider does business?
Zachary: Support is the most important service provided by an open source stack provider, based on interactions with enterprise users. Why support? Of greatest concern to the enterprise is access to expertise and accountability, especially when deploying open source software into production. The sustainability of the open source stack provider business model is around providing enterprise-quality support services. This is where the demand is greatest. Open source complicates the support issue because there isn't always a vendor to turn to, so this makes the support issue more of a focus by IT leadership.
Question: Can you explain the "single throat to choke" idea and why it doesn't appear to be as vital as it once was?
Zachary: "Single throat to choke" is based on the desire to have a single vendor relationship for all of your open source needs. For many, it's a major shift to think of software being created, sold, supported and maintained by a single vendor to thinking of software being created by a loose affiliation of developers in an online community. I think the shift in vitalness here can be tied to the overall growth in open source expertise. As an organization starts to have access to internal open source talent, their comfort level with open source increases, as does their ability to internally manage their use of open source. This reduces their dependency on vendor relationships.
The other point is that as an organization deploys a larger variety of open source software components, it will become increasingly difficult to find a single vendor with the breadth of expertise to support all of these components at the level required. Organizations then need to turn to multiple suppliers. We're still seeing demand for "single throat to choke" open source vendors in specific markets, such as organizations with limited open source experience, centralized architecture teams, and those with high levels of IT governance in place.
Question: How do you predict today's stack providers will need to change their business models in order to stay competitive?
Zachary: I think we're going to see a reduction in emphasis on the products themselves (stack assembly and testing) and a greater level of focus on the services (support and training). While an open source stack provider may continue to offer a certified stack, it will play less of a role in attracting new customers. Open source stack providers need to focus on specific markets as opposed to tackling enterprise users as a whole. We're already seeing several vendors refine their market focus. With the entry of system integrators into this field and operating systems vendors building stacks into their OS releases, I think we'll see some acquisitions in this space. Open source talent is in demand.
This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.
This was first published in September 2006